Conor Cleary: ‘A busy schedule is great’
*By Cian O'Connell *
Important matches are arriving thick and fast, but Conor Cleary wouldn’t have it any other way.
Now firmly established as an inter-county hurler with Clare, Cleary is also on the Independent.ie Fitzgibbon Cup beat with NUIG, who travel to UL on Thursday for a crunch group game.
“It is busy, but it is great, though, because you have lots of games,” Cleary says making light of the demanding schedule. “As a player, that is what you want to be doing: playing games. You've games week after week so it is great to be involved in them.”
NUIG, under the stewardship of Galway under 21 manager Tony Ward, defeated DCU St Patrick’s in their first competitive match last week. “It was a good start,” Cleary admits. “In fairness to them they set-up very well and it took us a long time to break them down. In the second half we got our game going, we played well to pull away. They are a serious side and on Thursday it is another serious test playing UL down in UL.
"John McGrath is there, they have an All-Star team really, they are a serious outfit.”
“It will be a huge game, UL are always seen as one of the top three or four teams in the Fitzgibbon. We have a strong squad here in NUIG this year, we will be going down confident enough that we can put in a performance.
“Hopefully we can get a win, but we are under no illusions that UL always will have a strong team. They have a lot of Clare lads down there, John McGrath is there, they have an All-Star team really, they are a serious outfit.”
Clare start the defence of their Allianz Hurling League title away to Cork on Pairc Ui Rinn on Saturday, February 11 with Gerry O’Connor and Donal Moloney in charge.
“It is going well,” Cleary remarks about Clare’s preparations. “More than half the panel would have worked with them at under 21 level, a lot of lads would have known them already. Then a lot of lads that didn't have them would have great respect for them for what they did at under 21 level.
“Everything is going well at the moment. To have Donal Og (Cusack) there from last year too is great. It brings a lot of continuity from last year. It is great to have him onboard again.”
In 2016 Clare, similar to Waterford from the year previously, came thundering through from Division 1B to earn League glory. Cleary is relishing the Spring tests that await. “Definitely, especially since we are in Division One this year, we are playing the top teams in the country so we want to be putting in big performances against them.
“We would be targeting the League just as much as we did last year. It was great to win the League last year, hopefully we can build on it this year to put together a good League and then Championship.”
It is a hectic time for the Cleary household with twin Eoin, an accomplished Clare footballer, featuring for Garda College in the Independent.ie Sigerson Cup. “In fairness to Colm Collins when he came in they all say it is a very professional set-up,” Conor Cleary states.
“That is great for Clare football and it is great for the two teams to be going well, it is a strong sporting county.”
“They need for nothing, they have really made massive strides. When you look at it now they are in Division Two and you see them as that sort of team, but they were in Division Four only two or three years ago. They have made massive strides, they would be one of the top 12 teams in the country now.
“That is great for Clare football and it is great for the two teams to be going well, it is a strong sporting county.” The Cleary twins will remain central to the Clare GAA story.